Published July 16, 2013
Volume 21, Number 7

August 7 Pooch Parade Benefits Tri–Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers  

Does your dog do tricks? Have a favorite outfit? Like to socialize? If so, round up Rover and register for the upcoming Pooch Parade on Wednesday evening, August 7th. A fundraiser for the Tri–Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raising Club, the event is a celebration for both canines and humans. Now in its 16th year, the parade is held in tandem with the Pleasanton Downtown Association’s 1st Wednesday Street Party.

The fun begins even before the pooches start their saunter down Main Street at 7 p.m. Fans, owners, and pooches—typically, some 225 or more—assemble at Lions Wayside Park for sign-in, mingling, and the much-beloved pet trick performances. An agility course, wading pools, and doggie massages round out the festivities. After the promenade, participants return to the park for raffle prizes and the results of the canine competitions.

Tri-Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers do just as the club name suggests: they raise puppies specifically for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization dedicated to providing an independent lifestyle and safe mobility to people with severe visual disabilities. Guide Dogs does all its own breeding, with puppies born and raised on its campus in San Rafael. The pups are turned over to their volunteer raisers at about eight weeks, remaining until they are 15 to 16 months old.

Guide Dog canines are exclusively yellow and black labs or golden retrievers, pure-bred or a mix of both breeds. “These dogs are known for their ability to work with people and love to please,” remarks Ellen Aguirre, the leader of the Tri-Valley group and Pooch Parade coordinator. Those characteristics give them a high likelihood of successfully completing the program. Plus, the breeds adapt very well to different climates, important considering that the organization’s service area extends into Canada.

“The puppies we raise have unique skills developed and nurtured by dedicated volunteers and a professional staff,” Aguirre points out. “They go to work, school, shopping, and various public places, activities that greatly enhance their socialization and training experiences.”

In eight years the club has sent 150 trained canines back to the Guide Dog program. Volunteer raisers—minimum age: nine—enjoy the opportunity to contribute positively to their community,and many opt to repeat the experience multiple times. Knowing they will ultimately part with their animal charges can create a kind of “separation anxiety,” Aguirre admits, recommending a classic cure: getting another puppy. “Once you start, it becomes part of your lifestyle.”

Occasionally, a dog will not make it into the program. When that happens, raisers have the first option to keep the dog, or designate another qualified human owner.

Before welcoming the future service dog into their home, volunteers go through extensive preparation, including orientation,training, and a few stints puppy-sitting. They receive regular support through weekly club meetings for puppy socialization and to work on training and obedience exercises.

“It’s all about giving back and making a difference in someone’s life while having a good time raising a puppy and watching it mature,” Aguirre comments.

For more information about the Pooch Parade and the Puppy Raisers Club, visit www.trivalleyguidedogs.org.

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